The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture

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fall 2008

CRP 386:
Introduction to GIS

Bjørn Sletto

Required textbooks

Ormsby et al. 2004. Getting to Know ArcGIS Desktop, 2nd Edition (for ArcGIS 9.2 with 9.2 trial software and exercise data). Redlands: ESRI Press.


Brewer, Cynthia. 2005. Designing Better Maps: A Guide for GIS Users. Redlands: ESRI Press.

Required articles

Downloadable from the class Blackboard site.

Required course materials

One flash drive (1 gb minimum) to save your work.

Course Description

This course consists of two major components—the social dimensions of GIS and the techniques of GIS—which will speak to each other in ways that are not typical in a GIS course. The intent is to teach skills that will make you fluent in the uses of GIS, but also to help you understand the role that GIS, and you, as a GIS specialist, play in society.

Social dimensions of GIS: GIS is a powerful technology that is widely used in urban planning, business and environmental management, and for strategic purposes. This means GIS has many important social implications: who controls the technology, what data sets are being used, and why? How can disenfranchised groups access and use these technologies to better their conditions? We will discuss issues such as “empowerment,” citizen participation, and organizational, political, and economic constraints, to better understand the role of GIS in society and the influence of the social environment on GIS applications and development.

Techniques of GIS: We will introduce the fundamentals of GIS, including data acquisition and entry, spatial analysis techniques, and production and representation of spatial data. We will also introduce remote sensing and the principles and uses of the Global Position System (GPS), and GIS applications using SketchUp and Google Earth. The techniques component will in part be taught with lectures in the classroom and in part through tutorials in the computer lab.

You should be prepared for a course that is but fun and challenging. There’s no denying you’ll need to spend many hours in lab each week! But we also have discussions in class about the social implications of GIS, we have friendly design critiques, and we share final project ideas. This means you need to attend lectures regularly. If you start missing labs, you will quickly fall behind. I intend for you to leave this class technically proficient, with the skills necessary to ask good questions and solve difficult planning problems, and with an awareness of the power and limitations of GIS. The idea is not to simply be a “good” GIS analyst, but an intelligent and critical GIS analyst.